Advertising takes over
Reading my friend Joe's blog today, a post of his created an interesting discussion. The National Post today had this attached to it. A wrap ad for the Mazda 5 that covered the front page. (Click for a larger version)
Joe didn't like it.
I'll be honest - I don't like this sort of thing either, but it's something we're seeing more and more. Advertising is increasingly embedding itself in the media - integrating the masthead of our national newspaper, placing itself in the middle of a scene of a movie or a television show. This isn't anything new by any stretch of the imagination, but it's become a lot more prevalent.
In the case of television, it's the only way for advertising to survive in a post-Tivo world, where it only takes the press of a button to avoid commercials. Hell, I like commercials and I do it.
The newspaper is starting to go the same way. Ad sales are losing market share to the online audience, and the effectiveness of newspaper advertising gets weaker with every RSS feed that gets published from a major news source.
Newspapers are facing a major crisis right now. They need advertising dollars to survive, but the way people want the news is changing drastically. Thanks to innovations like Google news and RSS, people want to sample a number of different media outlets, to focus on what they're really interested in, and to do it all while they check their email in the morning.
Maybe a sweeping generalization, but more and more people that I know (who aren't journalists) get their news that way. And who can blame them? I hardly ever read the newspaper, unless I'm sitting by myself in a coffee shop, and I have never really cared for the experience.
I'm not arguing that the newspaper has lost its place as a news medium, but I am arguing that more and more, it's going to have to adapt. It's going to have to adapt to attract and retain readers, and it's going to have to adapt to interest advertisers who are only interested in getting impact for their money. As time goes on, I predict that we're going to see a lot more of this kind of thing, and it's only going to get worse.
So what's the problem with this? I think it comes down to confidence. People want to be confident that the news they read is unaffected by who is advertising in the paper. It's not even close to the case, but this makes it all the more real, and that's unsettling. As the line between advertising and journalism gets thinner, that confidence will weaken further - and more people will adopt higher-tech sources for their news.
So, we end up stuck between journalists who are (or should be) fighting to maintain integrity, and the reality that it takes money to publish a newspaper.
I can say with close to absolute confidence that newspaper readers would not be willing to pay what a newspaper actually costs to print, so it looks like we're stuck with intrusive ads. It's not an ideal situation for unbiased journalism, but I'd argue that there's very little of that left anyway.